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One Idea to Eliminate the Kick Off in the NFL


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I'm not proposing this, but it's the first time I've seen this idea, and thought it was, at the very least, interesting.

More Scoring! More Fumbles!

What would happen if the NFL eliminated kickoffs?

By Brian Burke|Posted Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, at 4:05 PM ET

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Jacoby Jones of the Baltimore Ravens returns a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown against Raiders in November

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

For the second year in a row, Slate and Deadspin are teaming up for a season-long NFL roundtable. Check back here each week as a rotating cast of football watchers discusses the weekend's key plays, coaching decisions, and traumatic brain injuries. And click here to play the latest episode of Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen.

Before we start laughing at Roger Goodell's idea—by way of Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano—of eliminating kickoffs and replacing them with punts, let's first analyze what this would mean for the game. The suggestion would work like this: Instead of kicking off after a score or to start a half of play, teams would be given the ball in a fourth-down-and-15-yards-to-go situation. Teams could choose to punt, which would accomplish the same purpose as a kickoff—serving possession to the other team. However, the offense could also elect to go for it. This wrinkle would replace the onside kick.

Schiano chose 15 yards as the distance to go for a reason. The success rate for converting do-or-die plays with 15 yards to go is the same as for onside kicks, 19 percent. One exception is that "surprise" onside kicks—attempted when the kicking team is not in desperate circumstances—are recovered far more frequently, at over 50 percent. Under the new rule, the equivalent of a surprise onside kick would be a fake punt—a far more challenging conversion.

Starting field position for the receiving team would be affected, too. Currently, with the kickoff line at the 35-yard line, the average starting field position following a kickoff is a team's own 22. Punts from a team's own 30 net an average of 38 yards, moving the average starting field position 10 yards further upfield, to the 32.

This will simultaneously increase scoring and reduce the effective value of a score. Points will rise, but less than you might think. It will certainly be easier for the receiving team to score. In typical situations the chance of a touchdown will increase from about 17 percent to 20 percent. Field goal chances will increase similarly.

Touchdown-return frequency will be affected as well. Over the past two seasons, under the new kickoff rules, kickoffs are returned for touchdowns just 0.2 percent of the time. Punts from near the kicking team's own 30-yard line are returned for touchdowns slightly over 1 percent of the time.

Punts tend to have a much higher variance than kickoffs, meaning that the spread of outcomes is wider. Kickoffs are highly predictable, especially now that touchbacks are so much more common. Punt distances and return yardage vary much more than for kickoffs. It's not just yardage that varies, but turnovers, too. Lost fumbles are more common with punts. Slightly under 1 percent of (non-onside) kickoffs since 2011 result in turnovers. Punts from the 30-yard line region of the field result in turnovers 2 percent of the time, over twice as often. If the new rule were to take effect, things would get a little more exciting.

With proposed rule changes like these, I ask myself, "What if things had always been this way? Would we want to change from that to the way things are now?" If football didn't have the extra point—an odd play that's meaningless to game outcomes 99.9 percent of the time—would we want to invent one? Probably not.

In this case, if we'd always started the game with a punt, would we want to invent the kickoff? It's not so clear. With the yard line of the kickoff now at the 35 and as placekickers continue their trend of booting the ball farther, it won't be long before every kickoff is a touchback. The kickoff might soon become like the extra point—a boring formality.

I'm a traditionalist, so all things being equal I'd certainly prefer to keep the kickoff the way it is. But that may not be possible in the current climate. The greatest nonlegal threat to the NFL's place atop the American sports landscape is the growing public distaste for violence. Whether kickoffs are in fact more dangerous than scrimmage plays—what with all the routine subconcussive trauma on the line—is immaterial to the NFL. The league is operating in the realm of perception now. Roger Goodell needs to look busy, even if he's only busily dressing windows.

http://www.slate.com..._potential.html

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Posted · Report post

10 years from now, the NFL will be playing Flag Football.

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Posted · Report post

10 years from now, the NFL will be playing Flag Football.

Do it now. league is already a joke.

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Posted · Report post

10 years from now, the NFL will be playing Flag Football.

That was my first thought but this idea probably increases action, considering all the touchbacks in the NFL now, rather than decreasing it. I'd prefer that reasoning over the desire to eliminate high speed collisions.

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Posted · Report post

That was my first thought but this idea probably increases action, considering all the touchbacks in the NFL now, rather than decreasing it. I'd prefer that reasoning over the desire to eliminate high speed collisions.

No way. Kick offs can be some of the most exciting plays of the year.

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Posted · Report post

Just play the effing game. whether they end up as vegetables or not is not my concern.

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10 years from now, the NFL will be playing Flag Football.

Bringing a vast underground *secret site* network of football games being played.. THOSE games will have progressed to almost like MMA/football.. Players will be issued kevlar and 9mm's etc..
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Posted · Report post

Just play the effing game. whether they end up as vegetables or not is not my concern.

Whats sad is, 95% of the players feel the same way. They know what they sign up for, get paid handsomely and take the risk.

Goodell is an assbag.

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That was my first thought but this idea probably increases action, considering all the touchbacks in the NFL now, rather than decreasing it. I'd prefer that reasoning over the desire to eliminate high speed collisions.

Want to eliminate high speed collisions ? Take the carbon fiber helmets away.. and use something that reminds the players not to lead with their head.. maybe put a nose ring in the helmet so if they lead with it, it tazes them ?
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Posted · Report post

10 years from now, the NFL will be playing Flag Football.

Do it now. league is already a joke.

carpal tunnel will be the new concussion

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Posted · Report post

Just play the effing game. whether they end up as vegetables or not is not my concern.

Weren't you all over Mick for suggesting the death of Mark Sanchez might be a good thing?

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Whats sad is, 95% of the players feel the same way. They know what they sign up for, get paid handsomely and take the risk.

Goodell is an assbag.

They are afraid of lawsuits. That is what it is pure and simple. They have to show at least a little gumption that they are concerned about the well being of their talent. They may be facing a huge class action suit.

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Weren't you all over Mick for suggesting the death of Mark Sanchez might be a good thing?

Nope.

*** File this under things that people think, but should never say out loud ****

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The greatest nonlegal threat to the NFL's place atop the American sports landscape is the growing public distaste for violence.

Boo!

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Someday the NFL will come across the brilliant idea to limit injuries, just touch the player in possesion of the ball and the play stops. They can even call it something like.........Touch Football!

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Someday the NFL will come across the brilliant idea to limit injuries, just touch the player in possesion of the ball and the play stops. They can even call it something like.........Touch Football!

James Harrison would still get fined.

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Posted · Report post

Can't we all club in for a Hitman....

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I think this idea sucks, but at the same time I also think things have to be done to ensure that the game at the lower levels is safer. Schiano is a piece of gizzard sh*t but at the same time I get it. You witness something like the LeGrand thing and it changes your perspective a bit on the game for young people. The NFL is the NFL, and we all enjoy it and kickoffs are entertaining, but at the same time this is an aspect of the game that is probably too dangerous for kids and teenagers. They're not trained or physically developed enough for this specific area of the game, where the hardest hits tend to take place.

Look, we're not going to do away with pee-wee or middle school or HS level football, so you have to figure that in to things when you consider how it's played at the professional level. I'm not so sure the NFL should be the ones taking the lead on this, but at the same time somebody has to and they're obviously in the position of having the most influence.

Cue the "think about the children" jokes.

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Posted · Report post

Cue the "think about the children" jokes.

There's only one of those

Wu-tang is for the Children

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There's only one of those

Wu-tang is for the Children

That's not a joke, that's a mantra motha****a.

And if you think I'm joking when I say that keep this as my iPhone background, think again.

56a77c6e782c1888_320x480.jpg

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10 years from now, the NFL will be playing Flag Football.

They are now talking about eliminating all blocking below the waist, so flags may very well be on the way. Thank God for boxing, bull fighting and rugby.

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Posted · Report post

i think they should move kickoffs back and stop all these freaking touchbacks

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Posted · Report post

I support/oppose this depending on how bad the Jets special teams are.

---

no, I oppose it. why? just whyyy would you do that?

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Want to eliminate high speed collisions ? Take the carbon fiber helmets away.. and use something that reminds the players not to lead with their head.. maybe put a nose ring in the helmet so if they lead with it, it tazes them ?

Make them wear tinfoil hats?

Goodell probably thinks Sarcastaball is a good idea.

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Posted · Report post

just put flags on them

the nfl is in a tough spot. they are popular because of the violence, but they are getting sued by players because of the violence

whatever

go knicks !

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